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Irene By the Numbers

8/31/11 The Storm Itself Irene was the first hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Ike struck Texas in September 2008. Irene was the first storm to threaten the New York City area since Hurricane Gloria in September 1985. On Saturday, August 27, Irene's hurricane force winds extended outward up to 90 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extended outward up to 290 miles. Irene was similar in size to Hurricane Katrina nearly six years ago to the date. Katrina's hurricane force winds extended outward about 104 miles with tropical storm force winds felt outward 230 miles. River flooding records were broken in 26 rivers. New Jersey (8), New York (14), Vermont (4). At least 40 people have died as a result of the storm. (8/30; various media reports) About 3.5 million customers were without power; that's about 9 million people (media reports) 80 million people within 200 miles of storm track (source: CIESEN, Columbia University) 49 million people within 100 miles of storm track (source: CIESEN, Columbia University) 2.3 million people were under mandatory evacuation orders. 1 million in New Jersey, 315,000 in Maryland, 300,000 in North Carolina, 200,000 in Virginia, 100,000 in Delaware, and 300,000 people in New York City. 10,000 flights canceled for August 2728. SWF, JFK, LGA, PHL, ISP and EWR airports were closed. Numerous roads are closed in New Jersey and PA due to flooding and downed limbs, including portions of I78, I80, I287 and I95. 140 roads closed in MD due to downed trees and 46 due to flooding. The New York Mass Transit Authority (MTA) stopped subway, bus, and Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North Railroad services were shut down. NJ Transit and Path trains also ceased operations. Amtrak canceled all service on the Northeast corridor. Hurricane Irene will be the 10th billion dollar disaster in 2011. This 10th U.S. billiondollar disaster officially breaks the annual record dating back to 1980. 1

Accuracy of NOAA's Forecast Hurricane Irene's track forecast was on target between Tuesday, August 23 (11am ET; Advisory #13) through landfall Saturday in North Carolina (8am ET; Advisory #28) and its final landfall Sunday in New York City (8:45am ET; update to Advisory #32A). Top winds at landfall at Cape Lookout, N.C.: 85 mph, Category 1 hurricane. Max forecast: 115 (made Aug. 23). Top winds at landfall at New York City: 65 mph, Tropical Storm. Max forecast: 85 (made Aug. 23). The spread between the forecast intensity at landfall and what was actually observed decreased with time. A preliminary verification shows NOAA's mean track errors for Irene were considerably better than normal through the fourday mark (96 hours). The average 48hour error for Irene was 71 nautical miles. This is 20 percent better than the 5year mean of 90 nautical miles. During the time that watches and warnings were in effect for the United States, the average 48h official track error was even lower ­ only 52 n mi. The track error for Irene is half of what it would have been 15 years ago. From the time Irene entered the southeastern Bahamas late on Tuesday 23 August, the NHC official track forecasts were remarkably consistent in showing a path through extreme eastern North Carolina, along or very near the coast of the MidAtlantic States, and into the NYC/Long Island area. Forecast model guidance began converging on this solution when the NOAA GulfstreamIV jet began its surveillance missions on Tuesday the 23rd. When the hurricane warning was first issued for the North Carolina coast (Thurs., Aug 25 / Adv #22), Irene was a Category 3 hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas. The official forecast called for Irene to maintain Category 3 status until reaching North Carolina and then gradually weaken to Category 1 as it moved along the MidAtlantic States. Because NHC did not anticipate the slow weakening between the Bahamas and North Carolina, early forecasts for the MidAtlantic States and New England were too high. Although subsequent intensity forecasts were lower, they never quite caught up with the actual weakening of the storm. Irene exemplifies the state of the science. With advances in satellitebased observations and supercomputers, we have made tremendous strides over the past 2030 years reducing track errors ­ average track errors now are about half of what they were 15 years ago. However, we have made very little progress in forecasting the intensity and structure changes of tropical cyclones during this period. Future progress will depend upon the success of programs such as the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP), which is making use of advanced highresolution models and enhanced measurements of the hurricane core with Doppler radars to attempt to improve intensity forecasts. HFIP has already produced some promising results that are just beginning to make their way into operations 2

Web, Social Media, and Media Interviews People came to NOAA for their hurricane information. The NOAA National Weather Service homepage ( set a new record number of hits per hour at 51.3 million, which dwarfs the previous records of 38 million hits per hour during the Joplin Tornado Outbreak in April 2011 and 33 million per hour during the "Snowmageddon" blizzard in February 2010. NUMBER OF POSTS AND TWEETS o National Weather Service Facebook page ( 82 postings (8/25­8/29) o NWS director Jack Hayes' Twitter account(!/JackatNWS): 22 Tweets (8/25 8/28) o NOAA Facebook page ( 29 postings (8/24­8/28) o NOAA Twitter feed ( 63 Tweets (8/22­8/28) o NOAA Communications & External Affairs Director Justin Kenney's Twitter feed ( ~250 Tweets (8/22­8/28) FACEBOOK From August 20­28, NOAA's National Hurricane Center Facebook page ( saw 6.4 million views, and 8,000 post comments and "Likes." Subscribers increased by about 68,000, with the highest increase of 15,000 occurring on Thursday, the day NOAA issued the initial Hurricane Watch for the United States. The number of NHC Facebook subscribers surpassed 100,000 on Friday, August 26, and stands at more than 108,000 -- twothirds of which are women. About 5 percent of subscribers indicate Spanish as their primary language. In the week leading up to Irene (August 22­28) and including the weekend of landfall, the NOAA Facebook page ( saw a 336 percent increase in post views, a 281 percent increase in new "Likes" (+3,217) and a 514 percent increase in users who gave feedback on our Wall posts. For that week, the page saw a 65 percent overall increase in "active users" -- the number of people who interacted with or viewed the page or its posts -- bringing the number of lifetime "Likes" to 61,622. As of August 31, the NOAA Facebook page is showing 61,822 fans who "like" the page. In terms of content views, fans and nonfans viewed NOAA Facebook news feed stories/posts more than 396,000 times on Saturday, Aug. 27. On Sunday, Aug. 28, that figured jumped to more than 471,000 views. In total, the NOAA Facebook posts were viewed more than 1.5 million times the week of August 2228, 2011. SATELLITE IMAGERY & ANIMATIONS NOAA's Environmental Visualization Lab that uses NOAA data to make highend video graphics and animations had 13 million hits from August 2125: 772,000 people have watched the GOES13 satellite animation of Irene on YouTube: 3

88,000 people have downloaded the realtime GOES13 animation, either for web or broadcast this month. The highresolution, colorized GOES images -- automatically updated every 30 minutes -- have become the primary image source for AP, Reuters and the three major television networks. Vis Lab staff generated 23 images and animations of Hurricane Irene for media use during the storm. MEDIA INTERVIEWS NOAA handled about 500 media interviews during Hurricane Irene. National Hurricane Center conducted 348 interviews alone, with 75 interviews with national TV outlets, 64 interviews with local TV outlets, 100 radio interviews, 60 print interviews, and 49 "generic broadcasts" for each advisory update and 49 podcasts. Added Support About two dozen NWS meteorologists and hydrologists were deployed to support emergency managers and other forecast offices, including three FEMA regions and the New York City and Suffolk County Offices of Emergency Management. Water Levels NOAA monitored water level data throughout the storm from 63 tide level gauges from Florida to Maine and 15 U.S. gauges in the Caribbean. Along North Carolina, surge values ranged from 1 foot at Wilmington to about 6.2 feet above predicted tide levels at Oregon Inlet Marina. This was the highest storm surge observation from Hurricane Irene. Stations near the entrance to Chesapeake Bay recorded storm surge values between 4 and 5 feet above predicted tide levels. Stations from New York City to Woods Hole, Mass., had max storm surge values between 3 and 5 feet above predicted tide levels, with the highest preliminary measurement of 4.77 ft. recorded at Providence, R.I. Navigation 12 major ports stood in the path of Hurricane Irene. In all, there were 192 ports in the path of storm. NOAA sent 7 survey vessels to major ports from North Carolina to Rhode Island to survey for new obstructions and allow port officials to reopen and keep commerce, local jobs, and the economy moving. Three NOAA vessels are surveying the Hampton Roads area of (Port of Virginia) for hazards. The survey will cover 200 linear nautical miles. Emergency Response Imagery 4

Over a period of 6.6 hours on August 28, NOAA conducted overflights of 196 miles of affected coastline, collecting over 1,500 images of coastal areas from Emerald Isle, North Carolina to Oregon Inlet, N.C. ( NOAA also collected topographic light detection and ranging (LIDAR) images of the same area. This will provide elevation data that can be used to determine coastal erosion impacts. NOAA aerial overflights save FEMA money. FEMA used the remote sensing imagery to assess the status of approximately 10,000 homes after this year's Birmingham, Ala. tornadoes. Usually they send out contractors on foot at a cost of $100$150 per house. Using NOAA imagery they were able to drive that cost down to $7$8 per house. The result was a savings of between $920,000 and $1.42 million just in the Birmingham area alone. Mitigating the Impacts of the Storm NOAA's coastal state and territorial partners in the National Coastal Zone Management Program are on the ground working to respond to and assess damage from Hurricane Irene. For example, Highway 12 along the Outer Banks sustained damage and several new inlets were breached in the area. Through NOAA's support under the Coastal Zone Management Act and state matching funds, about $5 million is spent annually to mitigate coastal hazards in the areas hit by Irene, helping to offset overall damages through ongoing management of coastal resources and development. Oil Spill Response As of August 29, NOAA has not received reports of oil or chemical spills related to the storm. # # # August 31, 2011



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